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Marc Chagall: The Early Etchings from the 1920s
An eccentric look at 65 early monochromatic etchings by Russian-born artist Marc Chagall (1887-1985).
The exhibition is based on two popular literary documents: Les Ames mortes (The Dead Souls) by 19th-century Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol, and Selected Fables, by 18th-century French author Jean de La Fontaine. Chagall's familiar, cartoonish whimsy is in full view here as he retells these tales in his own unique fashion.
This exhibition focuses on the early etchings of the 1920s, when Chagall had moved to Paris to seek artistic freedom from the perils of post-Revolution Russian life. Chagall produced more than 200 etchings for the Parisian art dealer and publisher Ambrose Vollard, beginning with a commission to illustrate Dead Souls, the masterpiece of 19th-century Russian literature by Nikolai Gogol.
From 1923 to 1925, he created 107 etchings to illustrate this powerful tale of Russian village life. In the novel, Gogol creates and Chagall would illustrate vignettes describing gossipy women, grotesque misers, venal officials, a drunken coachman and others.
Hardly had Chagall completed the work for Dead Souls when Vollard commissioned a second series of etchings, for the Fables of la Fontaine.
Chagall was attracted to the works of Jean de la Fontaine, the 17th-century poet and fabulist, because of their imaginative stories and moral strengths. He could harmonize his pictorial language with la Fontaine's imagery: universal themes of greed and flattery, envy and avarice, love and friendship, old age and death.
The exhibition is presented in a low-light gallery atmosphere for the protection of these precious works on paper.
Special thanks to Dr. Leah Press and Dr. Scott Ahles and L'Alliance Française de Fresno for their generous sponsorship of this exhibition.
Fresno Metropolitan Museum
1555 Van Ness Ave., Fresno, CA 93721
Le Coq & le Renard, 1927-30
(The Cock and the Fox)
La Fontaine Fables